In the late 1950s and early 60’s, Marion Pierce put fear in the hearts of every team that faced him.
Pierce played for Lewisville from 1958 to 1961. His nickmane was, “Henry County Hurricane.” which he certainly was as a high school basketball player in Indiana.Pierce set the career scoring record of 3,019 points–a record that stood until another Hoosier schoolboy legend, Damon Bailey broke it.
To understand the story of Pierce, we must first understand Lewisville. During Pierce’s playing days, the school enrollment never exceeded more than 85 students. The population of the community was less than 400 citizens. But like many small-town communities in those days, the local high school basketball team was the heart and soul of everything. It’s not like that anymore in Indiana.
Last year, Romeo Langford was a national phenom, but I’ll say with great certainty, that Langford’s star will never approach the legend of Pierce. Pierce played when high school basketball was king in Indiana. This was at a time when there were no NFL Colts, and no NBA Pacers.
The communities were very close-knit-before they were swallowed up by consolidation-which, sadly, eliminated many of these smaller communities and took away what identity these towns had.
Pierce was a big kid, standing 6-foot-4, and was known for a beautiful jump shot. Pierce’s work ethic was legendary. It was said if a rainstorm came you would find him outside in a raincoat perfecting his shot. He practiced endlessly from sun up to sun down, and sometimes longer. It helped that his father owned a junkyard. When the sun went down, Marion would turn on the lights of the beat-up cars, and shoot for another few hours.
As a freshman at Lewsiville, Pierce average 20.2 points a game. Every year after that, his scoring average would go up. It was 34 a game the next year, followed by 36.4 in his junior year. He scored 38.2 points a game his senior season.
His single-game high was 64 points in one game against Union Township during his sophomore season. In that one, he scored an amazing 50 points in the second half.
In 1961, the small school of Lewisville took down a Goliath in the form of the New Castle Trojans. The fianl score was 56-49. Pierce scored 27 points. Lewisville advanced all the way to the Regional Finals, before falling to the Indiana powerhouse Muncie Central Bears by just three points. Muncie Central is the same school that loss to the Milan Indians in 1954. Even in that loss, Pierce made his presence felt by scoring 25 points.
Pierce was a member of the 1961 Indiana All-Stars and still the only non-New Castle player from Henry County to achieve that honor.
With all of the publicity Pierce received for his scoring, it was winning the 1961 New Castle Sectional that brought the small community its greatest pride. Playing in the world’s largest high school gym, tiny Lewisville cut the nets down after beating mighty New Castle.
Eight years later, Lewisville High School closed its doors as part of consolidation into Tri High. Consolidation was the first nail in the IHSAA State Tournaments coffin. I will guarantee you this if there was class basketball in 1961, and Lewisville had won the Class A State Championship, it would not be remembered as much as the team that won the sectional. The sectional was much more important.
Too bad the tournament was ruined by the people that think everybody that plays should get a trophy. Trust me I lived through the IHSAA Tournament of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, and there was nothing like it in all of sports.